Prospect Retro: Kevin Kouzmanoff

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The Indians drafted Kevin Kouzmanoff in the sixth round in 2003, from the University of Nevada. His pro debut was decent: .272/.342/.437 for Mahoning Valley in the New York-Penn League. His reputation was as a player with a solid bat, but questions about where he fit defensively. I didn't put him in the 2004 book, but would rate a similar player as a Grade C or maybe C+ prospect nowadays.

Kouzmanoff's 2004 full-season debut was excellent: .330/.394/.526 with 16 homers, 44 walks, and 75 strikeouts in 473 at-bats for Lake County in the Sally League. HIs defense was rated as adequate by scouts, and the offensive production was solid, with a +24 percent OPS. I gave him a Grade B- in the '05 book, and rated him as a sleeper prospect who should be watched closely.

Kouzmanoff got off to a great start in 2005, hitting a robust .339/.401/.591 for Kinston in the Carolina League, +33 percent OPS. However, he hurt his back in June and missed the second half of the season. Again, his defense was rated as "OK" by scouts, but good enough if he continued to hit. I wrote that he'd hit .280+ with some power at higher levels, and gave him another Grade B-.

Injuries were another problem for Kouzmanoff in 2006, as he was limited to 110 games. He was unstoppable when healthy however, hitting .389/449/660 for Double-A Akron and .353/.409/.647 for Triple-A Buffalo. He hit just .214/.279/.411 in 16 games for the Indians, but his minor league numbers were superb. The Indians didn't have room for him and sent him to San Diego for Josh Barfield. I gave him a Grade B due to his age and injury problems in the 2007 book, but said it was a "special" Grade B. I gave him the coveted Josh Willingham Award, annually awarded to the minor league player whose bat I am most comfortable swearing about. He can f**king hit.

Kouzmanoff has been solid though not spectacular the last two seasons for the Padres, hitting .275/.329/.457 in 2007 and .274/.311/.448 so far in 2008. HIs plate discipline has taken a huge step backward this year: just 19 walks against 114 strikeouts in 533 at-bats, compared to 32 walks and 94 strikeouts in 484 at-bats last year. The increased aggressiveness has not helped him, as his power production has remained nearly the same, a slight reduction actually.

For the future, Kouzmanoff is now 27 and it wouldn't surprise me to see him have a career year in 2009, especially if he can get some of that discipline back.

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